Locum Tenens FAQ

Questions about locums? We’ve got answers – what it is, how assignments work, and what you get when you work with CompHealth. Brought to you by the company that started the locum tenens industry.

What is locum tenens?

Locum tenens (Latin for “holding the place”) refers to a physician, physician assistant (PA), or nurse practitioner (NP) who temporarily substitutes for another healthcare worker. Locum tenens assignments can be for as little as one shift or extend for many months. Locum tenens providers come from nearly every specialty and subspecialty in medicine. They fill an important need by enabling healthcare facilities to provide services that would not otherwise be available to their patients. Learn more about working locum tenens.

Which specialties are in demand for locum tenens?

Demand for specific locum tenens specialties varies by facility and geographic area, but there is an ongoing need for family medicine physicians, hospitalists, internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, psychiatrists, NPs, and PAs, among others. Locum tenens jobs are available throughout the U.S. in more than 100 specialties. For an assessment of demand for your specific specialty, view locumstory.com’s Trends by specialty.

How can I evaluate if working locum tenens is right for me?

Locum tenens can be a good fit at many points in a provider’s career. Some work locums to make extra money on the side, others use it to fill a gap while transitioning between permanent positions, and still others pursue it as a full-time career. For a personalized assessment, take locumstory.com’s quiz: How well will locum tenens work for you?

Can I work locum tenens while still in residency or pursuing a fellowship?

Yes, for certain specialties it’s possible to place physicians in locum tenens assignments in their last six months of residency. However, your eligibility to work locums may be affected by the hiring facility, the agency you work for, or even the restrictions of your residency program. To learn if you’re eligible to work locums while still in residency, call CompHealth at 800.453.3030. Physicians pursuing a fellowship are eligible for placement in their residency specialty as long as they have been doing clinical work within that specialty.

Can a PA or NP work locums right out of school?

Although it’s possible for PAs and NPs to work locum tenens right out of training, many healthcare facilities only accept locums providers with two or more years of clinical experience. It can be challenging to find locums assignments if you are a new graduate with minimal clinical experience.

Can I work locum tenens after I have retired?

Yes., many physicians, NPs, and PAs work locums as a transition from full-time employment to retirement. Locums allows you to continue to practice medicine while having greater control over your schedule and a better work-life balance. The flexible nature of locum tenens allows you to work as much or as little as you want, practice wherever you choose, and make a higher hourly wage.

Where are the jobs located? Do I have a choice of where I go?

Locum tenens jobs are available in both urban and rural locations in all 50 U.S. states as well as many international locations. You choose your assignments, so you have full control over where you work.

Can I work locums close to home?

Yes, many locum tenens providers are able to maintain a full schedule while staying within driving distance of their home. The only limiting factor is the availability of locum tenens jobs in your area. The more open you are to traveling, the more locum tenens job opportunities are typically available in your specialty.

How long are locum tenens assignments?

Locum tenens providers have the flexibility to choose the length of assignment they wish to accept. Assignments can be as short as a single 12-hour shift or last several months. The length of an assignment varies based on the reason the healthcare facility needs coverage and the availability of locum tenens providers to fill the position. Many locums providers choose to work repeat assignments at the same facility when additional opportunities are available.

What are locum tenens schedules like?

As a locum tenens provider, you accept only the assignments you want, so you have the flexibility to make your own schedule. However, just like permanent jobs, available shifts and schedules vary by specialty and practice requirements, which can affect your options. For example, an OB/GYN assignment may include on-call hours as well as evenings, nights, and weekends.

What is the minimum/maximum length of assignment?

There is no minimum or maximum length of assignment. It could be for just one shift or last for many months. You have full control over the number and length of assignments you accept.

What is the maximum number of assignments I can take?

There is no maximum number of assignments. You can work as much as you like, subject only to the availability of locum tenens jobs in your specialty.

How much do I have to work? Can I turn down an assignment?

You work only as much as you want to. You are free to turn down any assignment offered to you by your recruiter. Once you have accepted an assignment, however, you are obligated to fulfill the terms of your agreement.

Can I work locum tenens on the side and keep my full-time job?

Yes, many providers work locum tenens part-time as a way to supplement their full-time employment when permitted by their employment contract. Once you have expressed your interest and availability, your recruiter will present you with the opportunities that best match your schedule and interests. Learn more about working locum tenens on the side.

Can I work locums as a full-time career?

Yes, many locum tenens providers choose locums as their full-time employment. If you are considering working full-time as a locum tenens provider, it’s important to select an agency that has enough job opportunities in your specialty to maintain a healthy schedule of upcoming assignments. You’ll also need a strong relationship with a recruiter who understands your goals and preferences. Learn more about working locums as a full-time job.

How do I set up back-to-back assignments if I want to work locum tenens as my full-time job?

Your recruiter will be a key partner in helping you maintain a continuous schedule of locum tenens assignments. A good recruiter will take the time to get to know you so they can regularly identify and share new opportunities that match your clinical experience, interests, and preferences. It’s important to always be actively working with your recruiter on your next 1-2 assignments.


Good relationships are key to good job placements

Are repeat assignments available at the same location?

Yes, many facilities offer repeat assignments and they often ask if favorite providers are available to return. This benefits both you and the facility. When you’re already familiar with a facility, it reduces the need for onboarding and orientation and allows you to get up to speed more quickly.

If I like a location and they like me, can I switch from working locum tenens to hiring on as a permanent employee?

Yes, working locum tenens is a great way for both a provider and healthcare facility to try out a relationship before committing to a permanent hire. If the job is a good fit for both parties, the facility always has the option to make you an offer and then buy out your contract if you accept.

How does locum tenens pay work?

Locum tenens providers work as independent contractors when on assignment for an agency. They’re paid by the agency rather than the healthcare facility. CompHealth pays its providers weekly via direct deposit.

Locum tenens providers typically make more per hour than their permanent full-time equivalents. Plus, most agencies also cover the cost of travel and housing while the provider is on assignment. Learn more about how locum tenens pay and salary works.

How do benefits/insurance work for locum tenens providers?

Locum tenens physicians are independent contractors, which means they are responsible for providing their own benefits, such as medical, life, and disability insurance. Full-time locum tenens physicians often seek coverage through a spouse’s plan, public health exchange, or with the assistance of an insurance broker. Locums are also responsible for their own retirement planning.

NPs and PAs working with CompHealth are not independent contractors. As W-2 employees they are eligible to receive employee benefits.

How do taxes work for locum tenens providers?

As independent 1099 contractors, locum tenens physicians are responsible for estimating their own tax payments and how much to withhold. Many physicians choose to form a tax entity or corporation such as an LLC, PLLC, or S Corp in order to take advantage of available deductions or other tax benefits.

NPs and PAs working with CompHealth are W-2 employees and subject to corporate withholding for federal and other taxes. For more information, see these resources:

How does travel and housing work?

Most locum tenens agencies cover the cost of your travel and housing while on assignment. For example, CompHealth covers the cost of airfare, rental car, and a one-bedroom, one-bath standard room for the duration of your assignment. The type of housing varies depending on the length of the assignment; it may include hotel, extended stay hotel, or even a rented apartment. CompHealth’s travel and housing teams make all arrangements on your behalf unless you choose to book your own travel. Travel or housing upgrades are usually available, however you will be responsible for any difference in cost.

Can I bring my family/spouse/significant other/pet?

Yes, many locum tenens providers bring their family or pets along on assignment. Let your agency know your plans ahead of time, so they can help with the necessary travel and housing arrangements. You will need to cover any additional housing and travel costs for your family members and/or pets.

How do I find locum tenens jobs?

Locum tenens jobs can be found on a variety of online job boards. However, some jobs may be offered only through an agency like CompHealth. The best locum tenens job opportunities are often filled quickly, so it’s a good idea to work with an agency recruiter who can notify you of matching positions as soon as they become available. A good recruiter will get to know you well and present you only with opportunities that match your goals, preferences, and experience. Learn more how recruiters can help you find locum tenens jobs.

How long does it take to get a locum tenens job?

Depending on your situation, it can take just a few days to a several months to get a locum tenens job. Factors that can affect the timeframe include:

  • Availability of jobs: What is the demand for your specialty and how flexible are your requirements? Will you accept a job anywhere or only under certain conditions?

  • Licensing requirements: Is a new license required and how long does it take for one to be issued by the state’s licensing body?

  • Privileging and credentialing: Do you need to be credentialed and/or receive new privileges in order to work the assignment?

  • Availability of documentation: How long will it take to gather the necessary documentation, such as licenses, references, malpractice history, etc.

Working with an agency often speeds up the process, because they can assist with licensing, credentialing, and privileging as well as pursuing primary source verifications.

What paperwork is required to work locum tenens?

Before working your first locum tenens assignment through an agency, you will typically need the following:

  • Completed agency application and supplemental required forms (e.g. background check release, physical exam, immunization record)

  • Signed agency agreement

  • License to practice in the state or country of the assignment

  • Up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV)

  • 3-5 references from peers who have worked with you in a clinical setting within the past 24 months, usually in the same specialty, and who have first-hand knowledge of your clinical experience

You will also need to complete the agency credentialing process along with the hiring facility’s credentialing and/or privileging processes (if applicable). Most agencies will assist you in completing the paperwork as much as possible.


Tips for getting your paperwork organized

How does licensing work if the job is in another state?

If you need a license to practice in a new state, your agency will typically assist you in acquiring the new license. Licensing requirements differ by state, so the time and effort needed will vary. Depending on where you hold your primary license and the state of the locum tenens assignment, you may be able to qualify for expedited licensure through the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). Learn more about multi-state licensure under the IMLC.


Getting a head start on your state medical license

What does the locum tenens agency take care of?

While the details may vary, locum tenens agencies typically take care of the cost of travel and housing, provide malpractice insurance, and assist in licensing, credentialing, and privileging. CompHealth also provides a dedicated recruiter focused on your specialty. Agencies usually do not provide benefits or tax withholding.


What does a locum tenens agency pay for?

What should I expect when I first contact CompHealth?

When you first contact CompHealth, you’ll be assigned a recruiter who works exclusively with your specialty. Your recruiter will schedule an initial call to answer your questions and learn about your job preferences and clinical experience. This helps us start matching you up with opportunities and presenting you with jobs to review. If a job looks like a good fit, you let us know and we’ll start preparations to present you as a candidate.


Finding the right locum tenens assignment

What do I get when I work with CompHealth?

CompHealth provides you with:

  • Temporary and permanent job opportunities in more than 100 provider specialties

  • A personal recruiter that is dedicated to your specialty

  • Paid travel and housing during your assignment

  • Licensing, credentialing, and privileging assistance

  • Relocation support and assistance

Learn more about how CompHealth supports you in your job search

How does CompHealth’s contract work?

CompHealth’s provider contract is an evergreen agreement that governs the relationship between you and CompHealth. Once you accept an assignment, the details are added to the agreement in the form of an addendum that includes the dates, compensation, and other information specific to the assignment. If you fail to complete an assignment as agreed, you may be liable for costs incurred in preparing you for the job. For more information or to view the agreement, contact your recruiter.

What does CompHealth’s malpractice insurance cover?

Whenever you are on assignment for CompHealth, you are covered for up to $1 million per occurrence and up to $3 million in annual aggregates — even for assignments as short as two days. CompHealth’s malpractice insurance protects you from covered incidents that occurred during an assignment regardless of when the claim is made. If a claim does arise, CompHealth’s risk management team will manage the claim and retain qualified defense attorneys and experts as needed. CompHealth also covers any required travel expenses related to a claim. Learn more about how CompHealth handles malpractice claims.

Does CompHealth provide benefits to locum tenens providers?

Physicians who work locum tenens with CompHealth are independent contractors, so they do not receive employee benefits.  However, NPs and PAs who work with CompHealth are considered W-2 employees and eligible to receive benefits.

What do I do if something goes wrong while on an assignment?

Your recruiter is your personal advocate. If you experience any problems related to your assignment, contact your recruiter immediately and they will work to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. The entire CompHealth team is dedicated to helping you have a positive experience on every assignment.